Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jesus' Smile

Can you imagine Jesus' face wrinkled with laugh lines? I think you should. Think about Him sitting on the beach, having prepared a fire and food, waiting for the disciples to land their boat at the end of a long day--a day they'd spent fishing after Jesus' death and resurrection. Imagine Him standing to greet them, arms wide, smile breaking His face, calling each by name.

I've spent sleepless nights thinking of Him lying on His side in the sand as the sun disappeared, peering over the fire at these men He lived among, loved, and served before returning to Heaven to represent them there. And it strikes me that Jesus must have laughed; sometimes a low chuckle, sometimes hard and long.

I've tried to imagine His life on earth, having voluntarily taken a human form. How difficult it must have been to accept the limitations of fatigue, hunger and pain. How testing to walk from one location to another when for all eternity, He was there! How frustrating to be in one place at a time when for all time He had been everywhere all at once.

And yet, I think Jesus had laugh lines. How He must have enjoyed the beauty of the flowers, the shrieks of children, and the satisfaction of fresh water. How grateful He would have been for the small things, the big things, the personal things. I can picture Him throwing His head back in joy when the anticipated happened. I imagine He had a twinkle in His eye when others saw and recognized His kindness and goodness.

Someday, He will do the same for me...welcome me with open arms. What a wonderful, beautiful thought. Does He have freckles? I'll have to wait and find out.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When I'm Right (and You're Wrong)

This morning as I read my Bible, I saw the awful consequences of being right; not "being right" in the right sense, but having to be right because, well, I am.

Some of us--more than others--live a life of duty and obligation. I don't do what I want to do, in fact, I don't even know what I want to do anymore because I always do what I should do. Is this ringing a bell with anyone?

Like the Pharisees, we do what needs to be done, what has to be done or should be done. If we don't even know what it is, we'll reason it out and come up with something.

In many ways, life is easier when it's defined by "should's." We feel good when we work hard--sacrificially--to do what is right. It gives us purpose and identity, defines my expectations and makes it possible to measure success.

But not everyone lives by the rules... or rather, by my rules.

"How dare they!" "Can't they see that ____?" "What's wrong with them?"

There's a whole world of people (even in our homes) that don't live by our standard. They do what they want to do. They don't seem to stop and think about it. They don't sacrifice. They don't seem to care.

And this is where the mirror of God's Word becomes glaringly painful. Because when I read the Word of God, I suddenly realize God is not about "right" as much as He's about "love."When I do what's right, I'm not always loving. When I follow the rules, it's not about others as much as myself. And the paragraph above looks something like this:

"Others do what they want to do--not what I think they should do. They don't stop and think about my rules. They don't sacrifice the way I do or care about what I think is right and wrong."

And, ouch! In the mirror of God's Word I realize that the rules that define my life and what is right and wrong is all about me. Living by obligation is not loving God with my heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus did that--and He broke a lot of "rules." And a life lived out of duty does not love one's neighbor as one's self. Jesus did that, too, and broke more rules.

Not only am at the center of being right and determining the rules of life, I find myself driven by jealousy, bitterness and anger. Why do other people get away with ___? How can they do that with a clear conscience? It's not... right. And there is the black sludge in the bottom of the cup that looks clean on the outside. Inside, it's filled with robbery, self-indulgence, uncleanness, hypocrisy and lawlessness--just like Jesus said (Matthew 23:25-28).

When we live by rules, obligation and doing what's right, we've missed the heart of the gospel. The heart of the gospel is to die to self, not promote it. The heart of the gospel is to recognize my failings and live in them every day, not cover them up or circumvent them. The heart of the gospel is grace--knowing I will never deserve the death of God's Son. I can never get it right. And that's why I need Jesus. The heart of the gospel is to love others despite their failings, sin and muck and offer them the same grace we have received.

Got grace? It beats rules. Every time.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:10-13

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)